Fri

09

Oct

2015

Exploring the Wonders of Catanduanes By Motorbike

Catanduanes, Philippines Blog © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis

 

 

Motorbiking Catanduanes, Philippines  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis

As I sat on the beach in Caramoan, I gazed across the water to the island of Catanduanes...I wasn't sure how I would get there, but I knew I had to explore it. Suddenly, I noticed some tourists relaxing nearby. I started up a conversation with them, and realized that they had come all the way from Canada.

 

After a while, I learned that after their vacation in Caramoan, they were taking a speedboat across the water to Catanduanes. Not only that, but amazingly, they knew a friend of mine from Manila - she grew up in Catanduanes! Next thing you know, I'm hitching a ride on a thrilling speedboat.

 

I will never forget the motorbike trip I took around the "enchanted" island of Siquijor in 2013. Well, I was excited about recreating that trip on the rugged island of Catanduanes. Adventures like these are a big part of why I came to the Philippines in the first place!

 

What I didn't realize is that this island is much, much bigger than Siquijor. My 2 day trip ended up taking 5, and I'll never forget it!

 

 

 

Catanduanes used to be part of Albay, and is said to be named after the "tandu" or giant click beetles that can be found flying around the area at night.

 

I put my feelers out to my friends and managed to locate a motorbike I could borrow on arrival. Catanduanes is rugged; there are still remote sections with no paved roads, and for me, it made my journey that much more exciting. My trip began in San Andres...

 

Hicming Falls and Sto. Domingo River

Near Hicming Falls - Catanduanes, Philippines  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis

 

My first stop was the bridge overlooking the Sto. Domingo River (photo below). You can find it right on the main highway. This river was awarded the cleanest in Bicol in 1999, and is quite a popular spot for local kids to swim (it's also pictured in the main image at the top of this page).


You don't hear much about the waterfalls of Catanduanes, but when I looked at the tourist map, I could see that they were EVERYWHERE! I wanted to visit all of them, but there really were too many. Hicming Falls isn't too well known, but it was quite impressive! You can reach it via a short hike from the village of Hicming, near Sto. Domingo.


(Click photos for more info)

Luyang Cave in San Andres

Also just off the highway is impressive Luyang Cave. There is a tragic story attached to this place. Reportedly, all the locals hid in the cave when the Moro invaders arrived. They would carefully send a woman out to fetch water when needed, but eventually her luck ran out. She was spotted returning to the cave, and she gave away their hiding spot.

 

Knowing that they would all meet their demise at the hands of the Moros, the locals quickly piled up sticks and branches at the entrance to the cave. When they realized that wasn't enough to protect themselves, as a last resort, they lit the branches on fire...hoping that the flames would deter the pirates. Sadly, the wind changed directions, and filled their cave with thick, black smoke. They could not breathe, and there were no survivors.

 

(Click photos for more info)

Mamangal Beach

This is one of the nicest beaches I came across in Catanduanes, but to be honest, I was more focused on waterfalls than beaches, so keep that in mind:) From my research, some other popular beaches are Twin Rocks Resort Beach, Marilima Beach, Batag Beach...all within Virac. Sakahon Beach is nice as well, in Bato.

 

For a real off-the-beaten-path Catanduanes adventure (and the most stunning beach of all), check my Palumbanes Island Blog.

 

 

Snorkeling at Agojo Marine Park and Sanctuary

I was told that Agojo was the best place to snorkel on the island...sadly, this was not my experience. The bantay dagat (security guards for the marine life)  were not able to take me out in the boat, because it was broken. However, they told me I could just swim out a few hundred yards in the shallow water to go snorkeling.

 

(Click photos for more info)

 

I went exactly where they told me to and explored for over an hour. Unfortunately there wasn't much to see. After being protected for 20 years, there should be much more coral regrowth here. It's mostly dead still, and there aren't a whole lot of fish. Either people are sneaking in to do dynamite / cyanide fishing still, or somehow there are other environmental factors at work.

 

The best part of Agojo for me was actually the fascinating mangrove trees, as you can see above. Note: The photo of the corals above was actually taken south of Agojo, at a random (unprotected) spot I pulled my bike over and decided to explore. It really was in the middle of nowhere, and I guess that explains why there were still corals and fish. I hope the LGUs will look into this, because Catanduanes has some beautiful marine life that could really draw tourists.

Hiyop Point - Pandan

Cattle @ Hiyop Point - Catanduanes, Philippines  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis

 

In the far northwest part of the island, you can find the rolling green hills and vistas of Hiyop Point. Below are more various photos from my ride along the west side of the island. Carangyan Resort is near here, but it's a bit pricey for being so provincial. The couple who runs it is very nice, and the food is quite good, though. It might be worth stopping by for lunch, if nothing else.

(Click photos for more info)

I took a 2-week vacation and never came home. "Like" my page to see how I did it! - Nathan

 

Catanduanes is known for its production of Tiger Grass, or Sugbo, as it is known locally. It's used to make brooms. Also produced here is the strong natural fiber called Abaca, (Manila Hemp).

(Click photos for more info)

Catanduanes - "The Happy Island"

Lolo in Caramoran - Catanduanes, Philippines  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
The hippest lolo (grandfather) you'll ever meet.

Catanduanes was most memorable to me because of the hospitality of the people I met along the way. Known as "The Happy Island", I felt it from the moment I arrived.

 

My trip took longer than expected, and I was forced to spend an unplanned night in barangay Tokio, Pandan. A local introduced me to the barangay captain, a very nice lady by the name of Mrs. Bernacer.

 

After being brought to the nearby waterfall for a swim (see above), Mrs. Bernacer was so kind to prepare a dinner for me. Her family also made room in their home, so that I could rest before continuing my journey in the morning.

 

I also stopped at the School of Fisheries in Caramoran. I met many friendly people there.

 

(Click photos for more info)

Snorkeling in Soboc, Viga

Corals in Soboc, Viga - Catanduanes, Philippines  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis

What an unexpected surprise! There are some fascinating coral formations underwater out here in Soboc. I was so happy to see that much of it has been preserved.

 

I saw quite a few clownfish, a lionfish, and a variety of other marine life such as colorful clams and urchins. Remember to bring your own snorkel, mask, and fins! As always, I used my Olympus TG-4 underwater camera.

 

Big thanks to my local guide Mathew Barceta, and also to a local mechanic - kuya Rey.

 

My motorbike was having problems when I arrived, and he quickly repaired it for only the cost of parts! Kuya Rey and the rest of the guys there were very kind. I do hope to return someday and repay their kindness.

 

(Click photos for more info)

More Photos From Viga and Bagamanok

(Click photos for more info)

 

This was particularly beautiful stretch of the trip. I loved seeing the town marker they put up in Bagamanok - reminiscent of the Holywood sign:) I also came across a beautiful cemetery where I stopped and took some photos. The weather was just perfect. If you're going north to Viga from Virac (via the central route), check out Cathy's Spring Resort along the way.

 

There is a famous rock formation here near the beach. It's called "Boto ni Kurakog", which translates to "Kurakog's penis". Yes, you read that correctly. Legend says that a sleeping giant on the beach was washed out to sea. Now he rests underwater on his back, with 5 meters of his...ummm...manhood rising up out of the water. Haha.

 

 

 

Nahulugan Falls and Balacay Point

Nahulugan Falls, Gigmoto - Catanduanes, Philippines  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis

Nahulugan Falls is definitely worth a visit! You can take a trike all the way there, unlike Hicming Falls, where you have to hike a bit. Nahulugan is in the town of Gigmoto, where I found a lot of really good people. First, I stopped to leave my things at the local police department, because I thought I needed to hike to get to the falls, and my bag is quite heavy. The officers were very friendly, and I really got the sense that I could trust them. I was right!

 

Unfortunately, on the way to the falls, my motorbike broke down once again. I was far from any ATM, and I wasn't sure what to do. A very nice man named Manny came to my aid, and not only took me to the falls, but also helped me get my motorbike repaired afterward...without asking for anything in return. Kuya Manny and family, if you're reading this, thanks for helping me in my time of need!

 

Further south, I came across Balacay Point. Be careful on the rocky road going up...the view from the top is worth it, though!



Balacay Point - Catanduanes, Philippines  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis

Surfing in Puraran - Baras

Puraran is the most famous surf spot in Bicol. This is a great place to learn, or just relax and enjoy the beach. I didn't try surfing here, but I hope to learn soon! Balacay Point is only a few kilometers from here, and you can see Puraran Beach from the viewpoint.

 

(Click photos for more info)

Virac, Bato Church, and Maribina Falls

Can you believe Bato Church was originally built from wood in the late 1500s? Rebuilding with stone materials began in 1830. The church has withstood the test of time ever since.

 

Nearby Maribina Falls is the most popular and accessible of all the waterfalls on the island. This is a great place to swim, relax, or have a picnic.


Virac is the largest city and capital of Catanduanes. I loved the vibrant energy here. On Friday night, I wandered over to the plaza and found many kids practicing everything from skateboarding, to dance routines, to their marching band songs. I'm glad the city is supportive of this. Virac Cathedral is nearby, and is worth popping in for a few pictures. It's beautiful!


(Click photos for more info)


I didn't get to try many restaurants in Virac, but I did find a pizza place that I LOVED! It's called "Carrie's Pizza", and it really is a great value. The pizza was quite good for the price, and the service can't be beat. Check it out!

 

Hotels & Guest Houses in Catanduanes

 

Marem Pension House, Virac  - A beautiful and very affordable place to stay.  It has been operating for years, and is quite well maintained.  You can explore options at Marem Pension House HERE

 

Rackdell Inn, Virac - Also good for the budget-minded, and close to Jollibee! Haha. +63 908 885 0569

 

Catanduanes Midtown Inn (Virac)  - For a bit more money...you can take a big step up with the Midtown Inn. Still a great value! You can explore options at Catanduanes Midtown Inn HERE

 

Pacific Surfer’s Paradise Beach Resort, Puraran - This was my favorite option in Puraran. Service was great + accommodations / food were a good value. You can explore options at Pacific Surfer’s Paradise Beach Resort HERE

 

More options HERE

 

Getting To Catanduanes

 

The island can be reached by direct flight to from Manila to Virac, or overnight bus to Tabaco Port, where you can catch a 3 hour ferry to Virac. Once there, you should be able to take a bus to Puraran and other destinations. If not, you may have to rent a trike or van for the whole day, and it could be quite pricey.

 

Big thanks to Carmel Bonifacio and the Catanduanes tourism office in Virac! The tourism brochures I was provided with were well-designed, very professional, and quite useful. The museum above the office is worth seeing, too! Many thanks to the Gurrobat family, Mayleine Olfindo, and all the good, humble people of "The Happy Island"! Thanks for reminding me why I fell in love with the Philippines in the first place.

 

- Nathan Allen

www.idreamedofthis.com

 



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Nathan Allen has spent 3 years taking photos and documenting the Philippines.  A long-term traveler, he lives by the motto "spend less, see more".  Follow him HERE.

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